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NLCS Breakdown: St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants

Sunday, October 14, 2012 10:57 AM

The 2012 National League Championship Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants is a match-up of the last two NL pennant winners. Both teams are fresh off of dramatic Division Series Game 5 victories, and each team is eager to host games 1 and 2 of the World Series.

Lineup

The Giants added two very important offensive pieces in the middle of this season in Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. Also, they have Buster Posey, who is one of the best hitters in the league. However, the Cardinals are the best offensive team in the league, and they are getting tremendous offensive production from the bottom of their lineup; especially from Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso.

Advantage: Cardinals

Starting Pitching

Now before you start crying about this “homer” pick, hear me out. The Giants have a very good pitching staff, and they have been known for their pitching for several years now. However, the Cardinals starters had a better combined ERA in the regular season, and they have been better so far this postseason as well. Even with all of their great names, many of the Giants starting pitchers have struggled with consistency in the second half of the season. It is close, but the Cards have the advantage.

Advantage: Cardinals

Bullpen

Both of these teams have had to battle through some inconsistencies with their bullpens. Jason Motte led the National League in saves this season, and his transition from being a thrower into a pitcher has been successful. On the other side, the Giants have struggled to find a closer for much of the season, but Bochy finally seems comfortable with throwing Sergio Romo out in the 9th. Both pens have their highlights and issues, but I think that the Giants are better overall.

Advantage: Giants

Manager

Mike Matheny is the youngest manager in MLB, but he enjoyed some success in his first season as a manager on any level. However, he has taken his lumps this year by making some questionable moves at times. Although Bruce Bochy has a tendency to make some head scratching decisions, he is a very good and smart veteran manager. He has a World Series title, and he knows how to get wins in October.

Advantage: Giants

Experience

Aside from a few additions and subtractions, this is pretty much the same Cardinals team from the magical 2011 World Series championship run. One of those editions is Carlos Beltran, and he is one of the greatest offensive players in MLB playoff history. The Giants still have many pieces from their 2010 run, but the Cardinals have the recency and veterans advantage.

Advantage: Cardinals

Biggest Storyline: Which team will make it back to the October Classic?

The Giants (2010) and Cardinals (2011) are the last two World Series champions. Both teams made improbable runs in the face of fierce adversity to collect those titles. However, in order to add another title, each team will have to beat a team other than the Texas Rangers. Regardless of who wins the series, both of these teams figure to be major players in the NL for years to come.

Key for the Cardinals: Effective 4-man rotation

The Cards were dealt a crushing blow when Jaime Garcia went down with a shoulder injury after his truncated NLDS start. The top of their rotation is set with Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright, but they will need Lance Lynn to step up to be an effective fourth starter. He is going in Game 1 in San Francisco, so we will see how it works out pretty quickly.

Key for the Giants: Defend home field

The amazing run through the Division Series for the Giants was made all the more interesting because they dropped the first two games of the series at their home ballpark. It will be very unlikely for the Giants to come back if they drop the first two games again in this series. They must find a way to AT LEAST earn a split in the first two games.

Prediction: Cardinals in 6

If Game 5 of the NLDS is any indication, the Cardinals seem to have plenty of magic left over from last year. I think the Cards can steal one of the first two games in San Francisco, and they play very well in St. Louis. I think that Carpenter is the best big-game pitcher in MLB right now, and Lohse is having a career year. If I am right, I will be watching the World Series in St. Louis!

Tweet to @MLBFanCave using the hash tag #NLCS to let us know who you think will win this series.

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